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The Bible Story

Cover: The Bible Story Volume 4, originally uploaded by returntogodsgarden.

Did any of you have these growing up? We did! I think my parents ordered them from one of those storybook things you see at the dentist office. I think I would probably be appalled today at the way the Bible stories are retold in those books, but it sure does bring back some memories.

There have been a few things lately that have me thinking about the importance of being familiar with the many stories in the Bible.

The Bible in 90 Days

I’ve recently started using The Bible in 90 Days reading plan. I’m currently in the middle of Judges (and still 5 days behind) and am surprised at how many of the stories I am familiar with… even some of the weird and/or gruesome ones. (One of my favourites is in Judges when that woman puts a tent spike through Sisera’s head!) I can’t help but wonder how I know all these stories. Was it from Sunday School? Was it from all those boring family devotional times consisting of my dad reading long portions of scripture? Was it from reading those Bible Story books?

Teleseminar with Eric Bryant and Scot McKnight

This past Tuesday, Eric Bryant hosted a teleseminar with Scot McKnight as his guest. If you don’t already know, I have a man crush on Scot McKnight. He’s one of the best articulated theologians on this whole Third Way/Third Culture/Missional way of viewing things. Anyway, someone asked about how to best help people with no theological education read, interpret and understand the Bible for all its worth. One answer he had was to encourage people to read the Bible in its entirety and be familiar with it. That way we can interpret scripture in light of the whole. McKnight wrote a book entitled The Blue Parakeet which goes into that method of studying the Bible in more depth. I highly recommend it!

Conversation with Jill Nelson

Earlier today I had a conversation with Jill Nelson about preteen ministry. We have been experimenting over the past two years with how to best structure what we do with the Grade 5 and 6 kids at our church. I had met Jill at the most recent Conspire Conference at Willow and heard some of what they do with their preteens so I wanted to pick her brain. In the midst of the conversation, I was hit with the reality that most of our kids are familiar with only the few stories in the Bible that we use in our lessons from week to week. They don’t know that the Bible is full of story after story… some short, some long, some exciting, some boring, some clear and some confusing… but chock full of stories.

Where My Ramblings Are Going

For the longest time I’ve balked at a systematic approach to teaching “major Bible stories” because they were so academic in scope with the main purpose of attaining knowledge as the path to a lasting relationship with God. As I come to understand the entire Bible as one huge story of Redemption played out in whole or in part over and over again, I am finding a new appreciation for a knowledge of all the stories in the Bible… not just the major ones. I now have a renewed desire for kids to be exposed to the entirety of the Bible… not just so they become good knowledgeable Christians who can win a sword drill or Bible quiz or quote scriptures for any situation. They need to see the pattern of God… the backdrop, so to speak, in which the Redemption of the entire cosmos is played out.

It’s got me thinking about how to help children become familiar with these stories without it turning Bible knowledge into a way of evaluating the seriousness of someone’s spirituality. It’s got to be more than just teaching the stories as historical events that teach some sort of lesson. It’s got to be about passing on a desire to read the Bible to children AND families. It’s got to be about finding ways to make it possible for children AND families to read through the Bible together… not so they can pick out the morals and the lessons… but so they can know the stories so they can better understand THE Story.

  • Anyone out there dealing with the same thing?
  • How do you approach teaching Bible stories?

6 Responses to “The Bible Story”

  1. Jill Nelson July 10, 2009 at 6:29 pm #

    Great post, Henry! Glad I could help in the thinking process. I think seeing the Bible as a whole, not fragmented, is key in kids wanting to know and understand it better. As they see how it all fits together–how it's all leading toward redemption–the reality of God is so much greater. It's not just an encyclopedia of great stories, or a best of collection. It's all true, and it all matters. I loved how we were able to start this past year with looking at where the Bible came from–who all had a part in writing it, the languages, the years it took, the elements that prove its truth. We even had a Bible translator come talk to the kids about how we have our copies of the Bible today. I was really surprised by how fascinating the kids found this. It seemed to prepare them well for then seeing the big picture of it.

    • Henry Zonio July 12, 2009 at 2:52 am #

      Thanks for your time. How cool to have a Bible translator come!

  2. TL Baker July 12, 2009 at 3:23 am #

    Hey Henry,
    I'm just tapping into the world of blogging now- and I'm enjoying reading yours! This concept of seeing the Bible as a whole is huge for me, and the reason why I'm making major changes for our Sunday mornings. Every time I discover a new connection, or see another way God was setting our world up for redemption from the very beginning, I get excited to keep reading or learning more– and that's something I really want to share with kids, or atleast lay the foundations for. However, like you said, this requires a much more systematic approach to teaching or curriculum… or atleast having a good handle on what the kids are learning year to year, and figuring out how the stories, lessons and units can be connected. This has lead me to putting together a "scope and sequence" of my own for my kids. I'm still working on it, but I'll be kick-starting this September with the new plan. (I'm sure I'm not the first person out there to come up with something like this… but I haven't come across anything that's set up just right for my church. ) Now that I have this basic outline, I absolutely can't wait to get started– and as I look through individual lessons, with a better understanding of the whole, knowing that the kids will also be getting a picture of "the whole", I get really excited about teaching the stories… again. What a great God we serve!

    • henryjz July 12, 2009 at 3:26 am #

      Great to hear. Let us know how what you are doing goes come the Fall.

  3. Annette July 13, 2009 at 2:38 am #

    I have been reading your blog for over a month now and really enjoy your contributions. It is great to have children's minstry discussed in an intellegent and academic (in the best sense of the word) way. I am currently studying a course on biblical theology and it struck me that this very much applicable to your comment. What is important for adults is also important for children. If biblical theology encourages adults to see the Bible as a whole story, as the progressive revelation of God, then the same is true for our children. Thank you so much for your blog and the inspiration and challenge i find here.

    • henryjz July 14, 2009 at 9:06 pm #

      Thanks! I'm glad the conversations here are a benefit to you. I'm also glad you're jumping in to them. What are some ways you see kids appreciated the bigger story of the Bible?

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